Jacob Markley and the town of Markleeville
R-C Alpine Bureau
With his prodigious mustache and gregarious nature, Jacob Markley would have fit right in at the dedication of the plaque honoring him as the namesake of the town of Markleeville. The Snowshoe Thompson Chapter of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus donated and installed this monument recognizing Markleeville’s historic figure.
A hearty group gathered at the new Heritage Park next to the Alpine County Courthouse at the unveiling on April 9, 2016. Never a shy organization, the “Clampers” are known for their boisterous nature and love of history. They turned out in their traditional red shirts, hats, vests, buttons, and pins. A “Clamper Brother” with megaphone in hand, read the inscribed text to everyone in what turned out to be a torrential downpour. The plaque covers the history of this particular piece of land becoming a town in a succinct fashion. It reads as follows:
“On September 12, 1861, Jacob Markley staked out a land claim of 160 acres, a parcel that included this site. Markley erected a 16 by 20 foot log cabin somewhere near this plaque, covering it with shakes made from local sugarpine. He also built a bridge over nearby Markleeville Creek and began collecting tolls from the mule teams and foot traffic headed south over the bridge to Silver Mountain.
Over the next year and a half, Markley began selling off lots in his new town of “Markleeville” and took in a partner, selling a half-interest in his land claim to Henry W. Tuttle. The tiny settlement blossomed from a few small shanties and wagon tops into a bustling new town with 168 buildings.
On May 14, 1863, Markley was shot outside the front door of his cabin during a dispute with his partner. Tuttle claimed the shooting was in self-defense. The jury agreed with him, exonerating Tuttle of the murder.
Markley’s body was carried to a hill overlooking the town that bears his name — likely becoming the first burial in today’s Markleeville Cemetery.”
Heritage Park is a lovely new spot to stop and picnic next to Markleeville Creek. The community is appreciative of the time, knowledge, and dedication the Clampers took to make this project happen, and it is certain that the ghost of Jacob Markley is more than just a little bit pleased.
Markley hailed originally from Canada and had lived in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He was about 40 years old when he staked his claim here, having left behind a wife and three children in Minnesota. He and his two brothers originally raised cattle and sold meat in Sacramento before coming up into the mountains at the end of the gold rush and the beginning of the silver rush.
There was a telegraph line strung through Markleeville the year after Jacob died, and these lines connected to Silver Mountain City, Monitor, and Genoa.
The Post Office also started this year, and has been in continuous use.
Both a Wells Fargo Express Office and an armory for the Alpine Rifles (a pro-Union local militia) were located here during the Civil War. There were stage lines linking Markleeville to other communities in California and Nevada, but those came after Markley’s passing.
The town petitioned the California Legislature to become an incorporated city, a process which was never completed. As fate would have it, Markleeville would boom and bust according to the success or failure of the local mines and timber industries.
Silver Mountain City was the original Alpine County seat, but in 1875 Markleeville was chosen by the voters. Just 10 years later a devastating fire claimed most of the buildings on Main Street. The community recovered but was much smaller, and reflects its current size. Some of the famous buildings are still standing, including the Fiske Hotel (presently known as the Cutthroat or Wolf Creek).
As it does today, Alpine County demanded a rugged individual with grit and determination to be able to handle the harsh environment and challenging economy. Mining, ranching, timber cutting, local government, and now tourism have created the jobs necessary to make a living in this tiny, bucolic mountain hamlet. Karen Dustman’s book Historic Alpine: A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Markleeville will fill in all the missing details about the notable buildings, memorable people, and remarkable events that have occurred in this legendary town. It is available at the Alpine County Museum, Markleeville Art and Soul, and the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.